"Defending the American Dream" protesters oppose Florida budget cuts listen03/16/11 Joshua Lee Holton
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As the Florida Legislature session opens, many Floridians are fed up with proposals to lay off state employees and cut funding to education as a way to deal with the stateâ€™s massive budget shortfall. One week after the statewide Awake the State protests, activists with MoveOn.org rallied around the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Tampa yesterday afternoon.
Governor Scottâ€™s pledge to create jobs is being met with anger and frustration as he threatens to slash support for education. Dozens gathered in front of Senator Bill Nelsonâ€™s office to tell him that â€œenough is enoughâ€ when it comes to cutting funding from vital programs. Florida Consumer Action Networkâ€™s Tim Heberline helped organize last weekâ€™s pro-worker rally, and reiterated his frustration at the â€œdefending the American dreamâ€ protest.
"They're giving tax breaks to the top 2 per cent, literally, anyone who's making over a quarter of a million dollars. I don't make that. Apparently those who do are getting some pretty nice tax breaks. I think people are here because they're fed up with it. We can't fund public education but we can fund tax breaks for that."
Amy Murphy is a teacher and is on the board of directors for the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. She is one of 40,000 teachers that could lose jobs due to budget cuts.
"Everything that I do from the beginning of my day, I am a mother, I am a working mom. I take my child to day care. I'm in my classroom working, trying, pushing, being a nurse, being a technician, everything that you can think of, I do it in one day. I hope that they hear a message that we are not little ants that they see from the planes. Once you get so high in the air everybody looks small. You have to remember, when you come back down we're people down here too and we need the respect that we deserve."
Steve Brown is the Tampa council coordinator of MoveOn.org, and helped organize the rally. He thinks that balancing the state budget needs a drastically different approach than that which Governor Scott has proposed.
"What we don't want is for them to balance the budget on the backs of hard working American teachers, firefighters, small business owners and basically the little people. The 98 per cent of us that don't have lobbyists to fight for us in Congress constantly, but there are plenty of things we can be cutting and we can start with defense and tax breaks for large corporations. I'm not talking about mom and pop shops. Again, the $500 break for a new machine of some kind. For a new coffee machine or something, I'm talking about WalMart paying almost no taxes, Bank of America paying almost no taxes or literally no taxes. These are the tax breaks that we really need to be cutting because we don't need to be giving the money to those corporations. They have money. We need to be giving the money to the people that need it to survive."
Jason Smith mobilization coordinator for the west central Florida federation of labor. He is organizing another rally later this month.
"Fight Back Florida is a continuation of Awake the State. We just want to continue to put the pressure on legislators and let them know that we're not going to lay down and take these draconian budget cuts. We want to stand up for all the working people in Florida and make sure that everyone recognizes just what these cuts are going to do to people in real terms as far as job loss. We want to know where the jobs are at. We want to ask Rick Scott and local legislators 'where are the jobs you promised?' "
The Fight Back Florida Rally will take place on March 25, and will continue to challenge proposed budget cuts.